Officer Teresa Lashmet's determination and desire to help and serve is apparent. Her confidence in her ability to do the job is reassuring and inspiring.
Lashmet has been sworn into the Miami Police Department as the first female officer in almost 30 years.
Lashmet, 34, comes from a family steeped in law enforcement that influenced her interest in the career. Her uncle and cousins have served with the Missouri Highway Patrol.“They encouraged me, they took me out to the range and helped me with driving skills. I'm the first female to be in law enforcement in my family,” she said.
Officer Lashmet completed the Missouri Police Academy in 2010 and also went through 16 weeks of CLEET(Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) training in Oklahoma making her well-qualified. She formerly worked for three years in the police department in parking control and dispatch in Carthage, Mo. before taking a job in May of 2011 with security at the Buffalo Run Casino.
Lashmet felt driven to become a patrol officer. She said,“I heard about the opening and I had tried everywhere in Missouri. I got down to the last interviews, in Aurora, Vernon County, Carl Junction and a bunch of different places I went and applied for, and they all hired a guy.”
Miami Chief of Police George Haralson said two officers retired creating openings. In a selection process last Fall, Lashmet and now Officer Andrew Hanson scored highest and were selected for the positions.
“It was a very competitive process, there was a written examination, a physical agility test, along with an oral board and through that process Officer Lashmet excelled dramatically and actually she was the most qualified. She completed her training with exceptionally high marks and is now currently out in the (FTO)Field Training Officer program,” Chief Haralson said.
“The standard now is that the make-up of a police department should reflect the diversity of the community in which you police and so, having a female on the police department just increases our diversity in terms of policing Miami. We've had one female officer in the past Janella Spurlock and Officer Lashmet is only the second female hired since 1910. We're looking forward to having her in the police department.”
He added, “Again we are striving to be a professional organization to provide the quality of safety and public service to our citizens in our community. At the end of the day a more diverse police force will enhance our ability to do what we strive to do the most, address the quality of life issues and public safety for the citizens of Miami.”
Lashmet lives in Carthage with her husband a truck driver and has four children, three daughters and a son, ages 7, 9, 12 and 15.
The family plans to relocate here after her oldest daughter, an accelerated student, graduates this year.
Her husband and family have been a strong support in her dream of becoming a patrol officer. She said, “They backed me and backed me, when I went to the Missouri Police Academy, then when I got the job at Buffalo Run, and then again through CLEET here for 16 weeks. My Mom has pitched in too, she's done a lot for me. If the kids needed rides or had doctors appointments while I was at CLEET, she's done that for me.”
Officer Lashmet said there were a total of seven women in her CLEET class. The others have jobs as officers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
When asked what her kids think of their mother becoming a police officer, she laughed and said, “I've always been kind of strict so now they say, 'you're going to tell other people what to do instead of us'. My son wants to be a police officer too.”
She said her new career and her new shift will be an adjustment, she said, “I will miss my kids.”
But her passion for the job is strong and you can sense the excitement in her voice as she speaks about patrolling or her desire to set a good example and be out in the community.
The day of the interview was her first day out in a patrol car alone on the evening shift. Officer Lashmet had been on patrol with other officers up until then.
Lashmet said she knows,“how it feels to be the only girl,” and believes there needs to be more women in law enforcement. She thinks it would be ideal to have at least one woman per shift in smaller law enforcement agencies. “You're dealing with women, your'e dealing with children. The kids look up to male officers, I think it would be helpful for them to see a woman out there too,”she said.
As far as being able to handle the physical aspects of the job she said her training and experience at Buffalo Run as a bouncer and with security and crowd control during concerts helped. “I had to deal with and sometimes kick out and handcuff many people. I feel confident in myself that I'll be able to take care of it,”she said.
The element of danger that comes with the job does not worry her, she said, “God's behind me also.”
She went through taser training recently which ends with taking a taser hit. Lashmet said the other officers commented that she didn't say anything when the taser hit her.“I've had a 10 pound 5 ounce baby, that was nothing. Taser's nothing,” she said with a laugh.
Asked how she's treated by the other officers and Chief Haralson she said, “Awesome. There are a couple of guys who don't talk to me much yet, but as the new person you're not going to get talked to as much. I'm just getting to know some of them.”
She said other officers have encouraged and given her help and advice. She had been patrolling with Officer Richard “Curly” Cummings, and said, “He is such a great example to learn from.”
Having grown up with domestic violence on her mother's side of her family, she was raised by her father. Her desire to be a police officer was partially fueled by this experience. “I just wanted to help. Especially the kids in these types of situations, because I was that kid in that spot,” she said.
Being the first female officer in a long time places a large burden on her.“I think you have to have the courage and the drive to do the job. It feels good,” Lashmet said.
Only one other woman has ever become a police officer in Miami, Janella Ruffner Spurlock. Spurlock was an officer here from October of 1977 to the Fall of 1983.
Spurlock has been in law enforcement for 22 years and for the past 14 ½ years has been a death penalty case investigator for Tulsa County.
She moved from Ft.Worth where she worked in law enforcement there in dispatch and on the drug task force team to attend Missouri Southern. She was told about an opening in the Miami Police force and applied. Spurlock said she was one of 80 applicants and was asked questions during her lengthy interview that would never be allowed now. She was hired.
“I didn't want all this hoopla about being the first woman. I wanted the guys to understand that I was here to do the same job they were,”Spurlock said.
Being the first female came with some dilemmas. Spurlock laughed as she told about the policy of no hair touching the collar and hers was down to her waist. The compromise was a pony tail.
Spurlock said she was very thin and not even the smallest police uniform fit her properly. “My pockets touched together in the back,”she said, “They had to bring in someone to measure me to make a uniform to fit me. There were no protective vests for women and I had to wear a t-shirt under a men's vest and it was uncomfortable at times.”
Asked what it was like to be first, she said, “I'm not going to say that people weren't leary, but I was in it to make a difference, to help and protect people.That's where my heart was.”
She said her first call was to the Tastee Freeze where a man just out of prison had a knife and she was alone on patrol. Spurlock said she got the man under control, took him outside and cuffed him and noticed a large crowd watching her.
When she got back to the station, she said,“Once the other officers understood I was there to do the same thing they were, I had so many of them come up to me and apologize for doubting I could do the job.”
“When I'm in uniform it's not about gender, but about how you can handle yourself. In training I said don't just walk me through this, I want to know if I can handle the job. I'm a lady off duty and a police officer on duty,” Spurlock said.
She said that the officers on her shift were like brothers to her and that she became close to their families. “When I had my first child all the guys and their wives came to the hospital,” she said.
Regarding the legacy she has left for Lashmet and other women to come, she said, “I loved Miami, it's where it all started for me. Looking back it's been an outstanding and rewarding career I'm proud of it. My heart is in Miami. I loved the people and the community.”
She said, “(Former) Chief Gary Anderson never told me this, but I was told later that he said this about me, 'There is one thing I will say, she's a hard worker and a good police officer.' That's the legacy I hope I left.”